PART 2 of 6: Fire, Health, and Safety Risks Associated with Cannabis Extraction Methods, and the Rules and Regulations Designed to Address Such Risks... MEDICAL AND RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA: Legal Issues, Operational Challenges and Regulatory Hurdles That Marijuana-Related Businesses Frequently Encounter

PART 2 of 6: Fire, Health, and Safety Risks Associated with Cannabis Extraction Methods, and the Rules and Regulations Designed to Address Such Risks

This article is the second part of a six-part series discussing the legal issues, operational challenges, and regulatory hurdles that marijuana-related businesses (MRBs) frequently encounter. The first article discussed the various fire, health, and safety risks that MRBs encounter while growing and cultivating marijuana plants inside large, indoor, commercial spaces. 

This article discusses the three most common extraction methods that MRBs use when processing cannabis plant material to extract cannabinoids, terpenes and other components from the plant; the fire, health, and safety risks associated with each cannabis extraction method; the National Fire Protection Association’s (N.F.P.A.) rules and regulations that govern cannabis extraction; and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules and regulations that MRBs must comply with in their extraction facilities.

I. The Three Most Common Cannabis Extraction Methods

Cannabis contains over 500 distinct compounds, which include cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and omega fatty acids.[1]Cannabinoids are compounds unique to cannabis, and there have been over 100 different cannabinoids identified.[2]The most well-known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the drug responsible for the “high” of cannabis, which can affect the user’s perception, mood, emotion, cognition, and motor function.[3]  But, there are other cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD), which are non-psychoactive yet have been demonstrated to possess medically useful properties.[4]Terpenoids are responsible for the aroma of cannabis and other flowering plants.[5]Studies have shown terpenoids to have diverse physiologic effects, and terpenoids may be contributing to the observed effects of cannabis.[6]

MRBs primarily uses three methods to extract these various components from cannabis plant material: (1) Ethanol (or Alcohol) Extraction; (2) Hydrocarbon Extraction; and (3) Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction.[7]In all three methods, cannabis plant material is subjected to a solvent that removes active compounds from the plant matter, which is then filtered to yield a solution of the solvent with plant extracts.[8]

  1. Ethanol (or Alcohol) Extraction

Ethanol extraction, also commonly referred to as alcohol extraction, is one of the most efficient and commonly used extraction methods to process cannabis plant material.[9]  The Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) classifies ethanol as “Generally Regarded as Safe,” or GRAS, meaning it is safe for human consumption.[10]As a result, ethanol is commonly used in everyday consumer product as both a food preservative and as an additive in everything from the cream filling in your donut to the glass of wine you enjoy after work.[11] 

Ethanol, however, is also a potentially dangerous chemical.[12]Ethanol is highly flammable depending on its purity.[13] The flash point temperature of ethanol increases as it is diluted.[14]  For instance, the flash point of 100% pure ethanol is just 61.88°F, which is often lower than normal room temperature; 90% ethanol has a flash point of 63°F; 60% ethanol has a flash point of 72°F; and 10% ethanol has a flash point of 120°F.[15]  Also, ethanol is the intoxicating agent in alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer and other spirits, and long-term misuse of alcohol has been associated with a variety of health problems including alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.[16] 

Ethanol extraction can be performed in hot, cold or room temperature conditions.[17]Hot ethanol extraction is generally accomplished using the Soxhlet extraction technique, which cycles hot ethanol solvent through the solid cannabis plant material stripping the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant in the process.[18]  The Soxhlet extraction method, however, has a couple of drawbacks. It can be difficult to scale up to process large batches of cannabis plant material, and it often extracts unwanted chlorophyll and plant waxes from the cannabis plant material due to the polarity of the alcohol solvent.[19] Cold ethanol extraction helps to avoid this problem as the cooler temperatures make it a little harder for the unwanted polar plant waxes and chlorophyll to dissolve in a polar ethanol solvent.[20]

In terms of overall scalability, ease of post-processing, and energy efficiency, room temperature ethanol extraction appears to be superior to its hot and cold extraction counterparts.[21]The room temperature ethanol extraction method involves submerging cannabis plant material in a vat of room temperature ethanol solvent.[22] Once the cannabis plant material is removed, the resulting ethanol/cannabis oil solution can be gradually heated to remove the solvent leaving behind a highly pure cannabis oil containing the most common cannabinoids, including CBD and THC.[23]

  1. Hydrocarbon Extraction 

Hydrocarbons, as the name implies, are very non-polar compounds made up of only hydrogen and carbon.[24]  Almost all hydrocarbons are manufactured by the petrochemical industry, and are components of natural gas, diesel fuel and gasoline.[25]They are highly flammable compounds, but they are also highly efficient and effective at extracting cannabinoids from cannabis plant material.[26] 

All hydrocarbons could potentially be used for cannabis extraction, but in practice, only propane and butane are used because they work well and they evaporate very easily, which simplifies the recovery of the dissolved cannabinoids.[27]  Propane and butane are also fairly selective for the non-polar cannabinoids, so they leave the colored pigments and chlorophyll in the cannabis plant material behind.[28]  They are therefore able to extract a greater variety of terpenes than ethanol extraction.[29]  For products such as vape oils or oral tinctures, where the cannabis extract is unlikely to be masked by other flavors, preserving these terpenes helps to give the extract flavor and aroma.[30]

Propane and butane, however, are volatile, highly-flammable solvents.[31]By necessity, hydrocarbon extraction is a very hands-on process that is rarely automated, so there is almost always a human worker in close proximity to the extraction vessel.[32] Consequently, hydrocarbon extraction presents serious fire, health and safety risks to MRB workers who handle the propane and butane during the process. Therefore, for safety reasons, hydrocarbon extraction is typically done on a much smaller scale than ethanol or CO2extraction, but the relatively high overall output achieved from the speed and efficiency of hydrocarbon extraction still makes it suitable for large-scale operations.[33]

  1. Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction

Supercritical CO2extraction is a relatively new extraction method in the cannabis industry, but it has been used for decades in numerous other industries to process commonly-used consumer products such as coffee, tea, vanilla and perfumes.[34]CO2extraction, which is already a popular choice among many cannabis companies, utilizes specialized pressure and temperature control equipment to convert gaseous CO2into a supercritical fluid, which is then used to extract plant waxes and oils from cannabis plant material.[35] 

CO2extraction can be dangerous because the process requires running large quantities of compressed, liquid CO2at many times atmospheric pressure.[36]The high pressures and large volumes of the highly poisonous CO2creates major health and safety concerns if the CO2extraction equipment suffers a leak.[37]  An uncontrolled release of compressed, liquid CO2could result in the rapid suffocation of MRB employees in the immediate vicinity of the leak, so engineering controls must be in place to prevent leaks.[38] 

Perhaps the most common criticism leveled at CO2extraction is the high, upfront cost of the highly specialized equipment needed to convert gaseous CO2into a compressed liquid can be cost-prohibitive for start-ups or small businesses.[39] Also, because of the extreme pressures involved, CO2systems must be made of pressure-rated steel, which increases the upfront costs for startups and dramatically increases the need for diligent, routine preventative maintenance.[40]

However, some industry experts believe that the efficiency and safety advantages of using the CO2extraction method far outweigh the high upfront costs.[41]  First, unlike ethanol, propane and butane, liquified CO2is a much safer material to use than ethanol, propane or butane because it is not flammable.[42]In addition, CO2is a highly tunable solvent, so during extraction, MRBs can pull unique compounds from cannabis plant materials at different pressures and temperatures, which allows for a great deal of creativity in the extraction process.[43]

II. Fire, Health and Safety Risks Associated with Cannabis Extraction

As the cannabis industry has grown, so have fire, health and safety risks, and industrial accidents and explosions, in marijuana extraction facilities. In the 33 states where cannabis is legal for medical and/or recreational use, at least 10 fires or explosions have occurred in the past five years at extraction facilities, and nearly all of these incidents resulted in serious injuries to production-line staff working in the facilities.[44]  For instance, in June, an explosion at a cannabis producer in Washington sent one worker to the hospital, although it was unclear whether the blast was attributable to cannabis extraction.[45]In 2016, two workers in a medical marijuana processing facility in Oregon were sent to a burn unit after an explosion.[46] In 2016, in New Mexico, OSHA fined a medical marijuana dispensary $13,500 after an explosion occurred at its extraction facility that was so powerful it separated the building’s roof from its walls and sent two employees to the hospital.[47]According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, one 29-year-old worker “suffered third-degree burns to a high percentage of his body, had a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit, and needed multiple skin grafts.”[48]

Hydrocarbon extraction, which utilizes highly-flammable propane and butane, is a particularly risky extraction method.  For example, in Arizona last year, a fire erupted at a medical marijuana facility after a worker improperly stored a can of butane, which caused an explosion.[49]  In December, 2018, California’s occupational safety and health agency fined a cannabis manufacturer $50,470 after an explosion badly burned a worker who was using propane to extract oil.[50] Given the fire, health and safety risks inherent in using the hydrocarbon extraction method, two of the 33 states that have legalized marijuana have effectively banned this extraction method.[51]  New York, for instance, only permits MRBs to use either alcohol extraction or CO2extraction, and if a company wishes to use an alternative method (e.g., hydrocarbon extraction), it must first request and receive prior, specific approval to do so.[52]  Moreover, 11 of the 33 states that have legalized marijuana require MRBs that utilize hydrocarbon extraction to use a “closed loop” system that contains the flammable agent, which effectively prevents it from being released into the air where it can ignite.[53] 

III. F.P.A. Rules and Regulations Regarding Cannabis Extraction

Fire, health and safety rules and regulations at cannabis extraction facilities is primarily a state and local government issue because marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law.[54]  In Colorado, for instance, following a troubling increase in the number of extraction-related explosions at cannabis facilities, fire officials there persuaded the N.F.P.A., which promulgates and governs the national fire code in the U.S., to amend its rules and regulations to specifically address the unique fire, health and safety hazards associated with cannabis extraction.[55]In response, the N.F.P.A. created N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1, which establishes the various fire code rules and regulations that govern cannabis extraction across the country.[56] 

N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.1 governs the construction and operation of extraction rooms and facilities.[57]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.1.1 provides that extraction rooms and facilities must be “constructed in accordance with the [applicable] building code and [the N.F.P.A. Code].”[58]  N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.1.2 provides that any extraction method, other than CO2extraction and any other “nonhazardous extraction process”, must be performed in a “room of noncombustible construction dedicated to the extraction process and the room shall not be used for any other purpose.”[59]  N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.1.3 prohibits cannabis extraction in any building containing “assembly, educational, day care, health care, ambulatory health care, residential board and care, residential, or detention and correctional facilities.”[60]  N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.1.4, titled “Means of Egress,” provides that any extraction rooms that involve the use of “hazardous materials” must have at least one exit access door that complies with the following:  “(1) The door shall swing in the direction of egress travel; (2) The door shall be provided with a self-closing or automatic closing device; and (3) The door shall be equipped with panic or fire exit hardware.”

N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.2 governs the training of extraction facility staff.[61]For instance, N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.2.1 provides that the extraction process must be continuously staffed, except for approved, unattended extraction processes.[62]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.2.2 provides that the extraction facility must train any of its staff that monitors the extraction process regarding the following: (1) the extraction process; (2) the transfer of solvents, where applicable; and (3) all relevant emergency procedures.[63]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.2.3 provides that the extraction facility must also maintain all of its staff training records on-site and make them available to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (“AHJ”) upon request.[64]

N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.3 governs the training of extraction facility staff who actually operate cannabis extraction equipment.[65]In addition to the basic staff training outlined in N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1.2, MRBs must also train any of their extraction facility staff who operate cannabis extraction equipment about how to safely operate the equipment, and the MRBs must maintain records of any such employee equipment safety training on-site and make the records available to the AHJ upon request.[66] 

N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4 governs the installation and operation of extraction gas detection systems in extraction facilities.[67]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.1 requires MRBs to provide an approved extraction gas detection system in their extraction facilities.[68]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.1 provides that the “approved continuous gas detection system” must be able to alert the extraction equipment operator in an approved manner at a gas detection threshold no greater than 25% of the corresponding gas’ Lower Explosive Limit/Lower Flammability Limit (“LEL/LFL”).[69]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.3 provides that gas detection systems must have “constant non-interlocked power”, and N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.5 provides that the facility must feature an automatic suppression system “within hoods or enclosures, including ductwork,” in accordance with the following:  (1) an automatic water sprinkler system that meets all applicable requirements of N.F.P.A. 13; (2) a carbon dioxide extinguishing system that meets all applicable requirements of N.F.P.A. 12; (3) a dry chemical extinguishing system that meets all applicable requirements of N.F.P.A. 17; and (4) a gaseous agent extinguishing system that meets all applicable requirements of N.F.P.A. 2001.[70]

N.F.P.A. § 38.6.3.1 governs cannabis extraction facilities that utilize flammable and combustible liquid solvents (e.g., butane and propane) as part of the hydrocarbon extraction method, and N.F.P.A. § 38.6.4 governs the process of using compressed, liquified CO2as part of the CO2extraction method.[71] 

IV. OSHA Rules and Regulations Regarding All Cannabis Operations

 With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the U.S. Congress created OSHA to ensure that American workers had safe, healthy working conditions by setting and enforcing national, safety and health standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance to employers.[72]Notwithstanding the fact that marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug under federal law, OSHA rules and regulations still apply to cannabis-related businesses and their facilities.[73]

Under OSHA, MRBs are obligated to provide employees with current information about workers’ rights and labor laws as they relate to safety and health issues.[74] All entities covered by OSHA are required to display the “OSHA Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster in the workplace.[75] This poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place where workers can see it.[76]Copies of the poster can be accessed at: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/poster.html.[77]

MRBs with more than 10 employees are required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses.[78]MRBs that employed 10 or fewer employees during the calendar year are not required to file an injury or illness report under OSHA, but they still must comply with all other OSHA rules and regulations.[79]  Minor injuries requiring first aid only do not need to be recorded.[80]These records must be maintained at the worksite for at least five years.[81] 

Each February through April, MRBs that employed 10 or more employees during the calendar year must post a summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded for the previous year.[82]  Also, per OSHA standard 29 C.F.R. § 1904.39, MRBs with 10 or more employees are required to notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.[83] A fatality must be reported within 8 hours of the incident.[84]An in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of the incident.[85]MRBs that employed 10 or fewer employees during the calendar year are not required to post a summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded for the previous year, but they must report any work-related incident that results in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees within eight hours of its occurrence.[86]  For more detailed information on recordkeeping and reporting requirements, visit the OSHA website at the following address: https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping.[87]

Under OSHA, all MRBs must establish a safety and health program.[88] The OSHA safety and health program framework is intended to provide employers, workers and worker representatives with a sound, flexible method for addressing safety and health issues in diverse workplaces.[89]A successful safety and health program should include the following six elements within the framework: (1) management  leadership, (2) worker participation, (3) hazard identification and assessment, (4) hazard prevention and control, (5) education and training, and (6) program evaluation and improvement.[90] A sample safety and health program that incorporates all of these principles can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/safetyhealth/mod2_sample_sh_program.html.[91]

V. Management Leadership

MRBs’ management teams must provide the leadership, vision, and resources necessary to implement an effective, company-wide safety and health program under OSHA.[92]This approach should include a written policy signed by top management describing the organization’s commitment to safety and health and pledging to establish and maintain a safety and health program.[93]  Management should also establish goals to measure progress toward improved safety and health and allocate resources for pursuing these goals.[94]  An example of a management policy statement can be found here: http://osha.oregon.gov/OSHAPubs/pubform/sample-policy-statement.doc.[95]

VI. Worker Participation

Any safety and health program depends on worker participation and adherence to succeed.[96]  MRBs should therefore establish a process for their workers to report injuries, illnesses, close calls/near misses, and other safety and health concerns, and the companies should respond to any such reports promptly.[97]  Reporting processes should reduce any fear of reprisal.[98] MRBs should also give their employees the opportunity to participate in every step of program design and implementation.[99]  The following document provides guidance in establishing management commitment and employee involvement in safety and health programs: https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy08/sh-17815-08/02_pg_module_2.pdf.[100]

VII. Hazard Identification and Assessment

Creating and implementing a proactive, ongoing process to identify, assess, and mitigate safety and health hazards is a core element of any effective safety and health program.[101]Failure to identify or recognize hazards is frequently one of the root causes of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents.[102] MRBs should therefore create and implement assessment processes that involve collecting information about workplace hazards and conducting inspections of the workplace to characterize hazards and determine effective controls.[103]  Using tools such as a job hazard analysis (“JHA”) is one practical approach to identifying hazards and possible solutions to reduce or eliminate hazards.[104]Examples and more information on developing a job hazard analysis can be found here https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3071.pdf.[105]

VIII. Hazard Prevention and Control

Effective controls will help protect MRBs’ workers from workplace hazards; prevent injuries, illnesses, and incidents; minimize or eliminate safety and health risks; and help employers provide workers with safe and healthy working conditions.[106]  Controls are selected based on feasibility, effectiveness and permanence.[107]  Once MRBs create and implement controls, the companies should routinely reevaluate them to determine their efficacy and update them accordingly.[108] Examples of effective hazard prevention controls that MRBs should consider implementing include a Hazard Communication Program, Hearing Conservation Program, Lockout/Tagout, or a personal protective equipment (“PPE”) Assessment.[109]

IX. Education and Training

MRB workers who know about workplace hazards, and the measures in place to control them, can work more safely and more productively.[110]MRBs therefore should routinely provide training to their employees about the company’s safety and health program and the employees’ role in helping the company implement and adhere to the program.[111]MRBs should also train their employees about how to identify workplace hazards, and how to help the company control and/or alleviate any such hazards.[112]

X. Program evaluation and improvement

This step in the process will help MRBs establish a system of evaluating their hazard prevention control measures to determine their efficacy and continued effectiveness.[113] MRBs should establish processes to monitor program performance, verify program implementation, identify program deficiencies and opportunities for improvement, and take actions necessary to improve the program and overall safety and health performance.[114]

XI. Potential Penalties for Violating OSHA Rules and Regulations

MRBs that fail to comply with OSHA rules and regulations could face a monetary penalty or even closure of their operation.  There are six specific categories of OSHA violations: (1) De Minimis Violations; (2) Other-than-Serious Violations; (3) Serious Violations; (4) Willful Violations; (5) Repeated Violations; and (6) Failure to Abate Prior Violation.[115]  Each violation carries either a recommended or a mandatory penalty.[116]

1.De Minimis Violations

A de minimis violation is a technical violation of OSHA rules that have no direct impact on health or safety.[117]It is the least serious class of violation, and OSHA inspectors do not levy fines or issue citations for these violations.[118]Inspectors verbally inform employers about de minimis violations and list them on the employer’s case inspection file.[119] A ladder with 13 inches between rungs rather than 12 inches is an example of a de minimis violation.[120]

2. Other-than-Serious Violations

A violation of OSHA rules that would not usually cause death or serious injury but that is nevertheless related to job safety or employee health is considered an other-than-serious violation.[121] The maximum penalty for each such violation is $7,000.[122] However, inspectors can choose not to levy a fine, or they can reduce the penalty by as much as ninety-five percent (95%).[123] Inspectors make decisions about penalties based on factors such as the size of the business and the cooperativeness of its owner.[124] Failure to provide copies of safety regulations and failure to post required documentation in work areas are examples of other-than-serious OSHA violations.[125]

3. Serious Violations

When an employer knows of or should know of a situation that has a definite chance of causing serious injury or death, but does not remedy it, OSHA issues a serious violation.[126]Inspectors must assess a penalty of up to $7,000 for each serious violation, but they can adjust penalties based upon the seriousness of each particular violation, as well as the employer’s previous history, the size of the business, and the good faith of the employer.[127] Failure to ensure that employees who carry heavy loads wear steel-toe boots is an example of a serious violation.[128]

4. Willful Violations

The most serious violation category is willful violations, and it is reserved for intentional violations of OSHA rules and regulations, or situations that show disregard for employee health and safety.[129] The minimum penalty for each willful violation is $5,000, and the maximum fine is $70,000.[130]If an employee is killed, the violation becomes a criminal offense with a minimum fine of $250,000 for an individual, or $500,000 for a corporation.[131]An individual who is convicted of a fatal willful violation can also be imprisoned for up to six months.[132]An example of a serious violation is an employee being killed in a fatal crushing accident because the employer failed to implement adequate safety procedures for equipment it knew had previously caused crushing injuries.[133]

5. Repeated Violation

If an employer is cited for a particular violation, and a subsequent inspection reveals another identical or very similar violation, OSHA inspectors may cite the employer for a repeated violation.[134]The maximum fine for a repeated violation is $70,000.[135] However, if the employer contests the original violation and is awaiting a final OSHA decision, inspectors cannot consider a violation of the same type found during the waiting period to be a repeated violation.[136]

6. Failure to Abate Prior Violation

When an employer receives a violation citation, the citation includes a date by which the employer must remedy the situation.[137]If the employer fails to do so on or before the specified date, it may be liable for a fine of $7,000 per day from the day after the specified date until it remedies the condition.[138]

XII. MRB-related Occupations and Associated Potential Workplace Hazards[139]

The following chart, prepared by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, identifies the most common MRB-related occupations found in cannabis the cannabis industry, and the various, potential fire, health and safety hazards typically associated with each such job:

 

 

Job

 

Duties

 

Potential Hazards

Cultivator

Planting, transplanting, physically relocating plants, watering, nutrient mixing and feeding, mixing and applying pesticides, cleaning, harvesting plants, drying plants

Mold, sensitizers/allergens, CO2, CO, pesticides/fungicides, ergonomics, walking/ working surfaces, lighting hazards, chemical exposures

Trimmer

Trimming, packaging, shipping, data entry, cleaning

Mold, sensitizers/allergens, CO2, CO, pesticides, ergonomics, occupational injuries (cuts), chemical exposures, machinery

Extraction technician

Extracting marijuana concentrates

Machinery, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), allergens, noise, ergonomics, chemical exposures, use of explosive/ flammable chemicals such as butane

Edible producer, infused product confectioner/artisan/ chef

Cooking, baking, packaging, bottling, and labeling marijuana infused products

Occupational injuries (burns), noise, chemicals

Budtender

Sales representative who sells marijuana and marijuana products to customers

Sensitizers/allergens, ergonomics, workplace violence

Laboratory technician

Operates laboratory equipment to

determine cannabinoid and contaminant concentrations

Solvents, ergonomics

Cultivation

owner/operator

In addition to running the business, may oversee and be involved in the functions of the grow operation

Sensitizers/allergens, mold, CO2, CO, pesticides/fungicides, high pressure machinery, IAQ, noise, chemicals, workplace violence

Administrative

Responsible for day-to-day operations of the business. May include marketing roles, financial roles, HR roles, retail store management

Ergonomics, workplace violence

Transportation

May transport product or money between growing and retail facilities

Occupational injuries, workplace violence

Maintenance

(non-contracted)

Facilities maintenance, equipment

maintenance, HVAC

Elevated heights, electrical hazards

 

Conclusion

Each of the three extraction methods discussed in this article present their own unique advantages and challenges for MRBs that utilize them. The ethanol extraction method requires the use of highly flammable ethanol, and the hydrocarbon extraction method requires the use of highly flammable propane and butane.  Both methods therefore pose serious fire, health and safety risks to any employees who handle any of these chemicals.  And, the CO2extraction method, which requires the use of condensed, liquified CO2, also poses a serious health and safety risk to employees because, if the COleaks during the extraction process, the poisonous gas could cause employees to suffocate and die.

All MRBs should therefore promulgate and implement comprehensive fire, health and safety rules and regulations that are designed to reduce and/or alleviate the various risks associated with any cannabis extraction method that they use.  More specifically, MRBs should create a fire safety policy that incorporates the various fire safety requirements set forth in N.F.P.A. § 38.6.1, which establishes the fire code rules and regulations that govern cannabis extraction across the country.  In addition, MRBs should create a safety and health policy and protocol for all of their workplaces and operations that complies with all applicable OSHA safety and health rules and regulations.  If any MRB fails to do so and an OSHA inspector determines that they are in violation, the company could be assessed substantial monetary fines.

Finally, as also mentioned in part one of this six part series, all MRBs should purchase sufficient amounts of property and casualty insurance coverage to protect their employees, property, equipment and inventory from loss or damage caused by these types of work-related fire, health and safety risks. 

In Case You Missed It

PART 1 of 6: The Various Fire, Health, and Safety Risks Associated with Growing and Cultivating Marijuana in Large, Indoor, Commercial Grow Facilities Cannabis plants contain more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids,

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[1]See https://www.uclahealth.org/cannabis/cannabis-and-its-compounds.

[2]Id.

[3]Id.

[4]Id.quoting ElSohly MA, Mehmedic Z, Foster S, Gon C, Chandra S, Church JC. Changes in Cannabis Potency over the Last Two Decades (1995-2014) – Analysis of Current Data in the United States; Biol Psychiatry (2016).

[5]Id.

[6]Id.quoting Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects; Br J Pharmacol (2011).

[7]See https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/the-best-cannabis-extraction-methods-for-marijuana-concentrates-300434.

[8]Id.

[9]See https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/advances-in-cannabis-extraction-techniques-311772.

[10]See https://www.leafly.com/news/industry/ethanol-cannabis-extraction.

[11]Id.

[12]See https://www.marijuanabreak.com/is-ethanol-extraction-for-cannabis-toxic.

[13]Id. A “flash point” is the minimum temperature at which the vapors of a material can create an ignitable mixture in the air near the material’s surface. A low flash point means a material is easy to ignite.

[14]Id.

[15]Id.

[16]Id.

[17]See https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/advances-in-cannabis-extraction-techniques-311772.

[18]Id.

[19]Id.

[20]Id.

[21]Id.

[22]Id.

[23]Id.

[24]See https://www.escetllc.com/cannabis-extraction-methods-good-bad-ugly/.

[25]Id.

[26]Id.

[27]Id.

[28]Id.

[29]See https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/advances-in-cannabis-extraction-techniques-311772.

[30]Id.

[31]Id.

[32]Id.

[33]Id.

[34]Id.

[35]Id.

[36]See https://www.escetllc.com/cannabis-extraction-methods-good-bad-ugly/.

[37]Id.

[38]Id.

[39]See https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/advances-in-cannabis-extraction-techniques-311772.

[40]See https://www.escetllc.com/cannabis-extraction-methods-good-bad-ugly/.

[41]See https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/advances-in-cannabis-extraction-techniques-311772.

[42]Id.

[43]Id.

[44]See https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/18/marijuana-factories-explosions-safety-issues-1155850.

[45]Id.

[46]Id.  Felony charges were later brought against the business owner.

[47]Id.

[48]Id.

[49]Id.

[50]Id.

[51]Id.

[52]Id.

[53]Id.

[54]Id.

[55]Id.

[56]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1 (2018).

[57]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.1 (2018). Extraction Rooms.

[58]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.1.1 (2018).

[59]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.1.2 (2018).

[60]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.1.3 (2018).

[61]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.2 (2018). Staffing.

[62]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.2.1 (2018).

[63]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.2.2 (2018).

[64]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.2.3 (2018).

[65]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.3 (2018). Operator Training.

[66]N.F.P.A. §38.6.1.3.1-2 (2018).

[67]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4 (2018). Extraction Room Gas Detection System.

[68]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.1 (2018).

[69]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.2 (2018).

[70]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.3 and N.F.P.A. § 38.6.2.4.5 (2018).

[71]N.F.P.A. § 38.6.3.1 and N.F.P.A. § 38.6.4 (2018).

[72]See https://deohs.washington.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Guide-to-Worker-Safety-and-Health-in-the-Marijuana-Industry_FULL-REPORT.pdf.

[73]See https://www.cannabisbusinessexecutive.com/2016/09/top-5-osha-infractions-for-cannabis-businesses/.

[74]See https://deohs.washington.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Guide-to-Worker-Safety-and-Health-in-the-Marijuana-Industry_FULL-REPORT.pdf.

[75]Id.

[76]Id.

[77]Id.

[78]Id.

[79]See https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-is-osha-what-do-employers-need-to-know-about-it-398385. OSHA doesn’t cover self-employed business owners, but it does include the spouse of a business owner if their spouse receives a paycheck.

[80]Id.

[81]Id.

[82]Id.

[83]Id.

[84]Id.

[85]Id.

[86]See https://legalbeagle.com/13639306-who-does-osha-apply-to.html.

[87]Id.

[88]Id.

[89]Id.

[90]Id.

[91]Id.

[92]Id.

[93]Id.

[94]Id.

[95]Id.

[96]Id.

[97]Id.

[98]Id.

[99]Id.

[100]Id.

[101]Id.

[102]Id.

[103]Id.

[104]Id.

[105]Id.

[106]Id.

[107]Id.

[108]Id.

[109]Id.

[110]Id.

[111]Id.

[112]Id.

[113]Id.

[114]Id.

[115]See https://work.chron.com/types-osha-violations-10693.html.

[116]Id.

[117]Id.

[118]Id.

[119]Id.

[120]Id.

[121]Id.

[122]Id.

[123]Id.

[124]Id.

[125]Id.

[126]Id.

[127]Id.

[128]Id.

[129]Id.

[130]Id.

[131]Id.

[132]Id.

[133]Id.

[134]Id.

[135]Id.

[136]Id.

[137]Id.

[138]Id.

[139]See https://deohs.washington.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Guide-to-Worker-Safety-and-Health-in-the-Marijuana-Industry_FULL-REPORT.pdf.

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